Although Camden Yards played host to Baltimore’s 8–2 win over the Chicago White Sox on April 29, it was in front of a empty stadium. Owing to the ongoing unrest in Baltimore, the Orioles decided to close the game to the public.
Playing with no spectators was unprecedented in Major League Baseball until now. It was also the second-fastest game ever (2:03) in which one team scored at least 8 runs.
The broadcast showed players gleefully tossing balls into the empty seats following the third out. The box score, with a big zero under the paid attendance, was the undisputed star of the game.
While a zero crowd is a novelty, some fans may be able to sympathize with the situation—like watching my once-hapless Kansas City Royals, who used to play meaningless September games from 1995 to 2012 before crowds that were nowhere near the announced number.
It was a different baseball experience. You could pick up the faint chatter between players. You could hear players yelling “I got it!” on an infield pop-up. Foul balls landed where no one within 50 rows was there to grab it. If they actually won a game, you could hear the dugout cheering more than their own fans.
For a bit of history, Kansas City managed one winning season (2003) during the aforementioned time period and went the postseason zero times. Their average attendance—once more than 30,000 in 1989—dipped to the 16,000-range several times, before turning things around the last two years.
But before then, it was tough times watching your favorite team.
If you were loyal enough to keep tuning into what eventually became the worst-run organization in sports during the annual September stretch (where they had long since been eliminated) it was a sad scene—mainly due to the empty seats.
And of course, if the Yankees came to town, their fans outnumbered ours. (Rays fans can relate to this.)
So while the Baltimore game is officially unprecedented in terms of fans and noise, it’s not like it hasn’t happened before.